Multiple Personality Disorder
What is Multiple Personality Disorder?
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, is a type of dissociative disorder that results in at least two different personality states within one patient. These personality states are called alters; some documented cases of MPD have noted patients having as many as 100 alters. About 1-3% of the general population has been diagnosed with MPD, and as much as 7% of the population may have undiagnosed MPD.
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder?
In addition to having multiple personality states within one patient, MPD patients often experience severe memory problems that cannot be explained away by normal circumstances. Everyone forgets about where they put their keys or that they need to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home from work, but they do not normally forget their names, addresses, or other pertinent personal information. This amnesia for fundamental facts about the self can be extensive and can cause severe problems.
MPD patients may also suffer from identity confusion. A person’s alter personality might engage in behavior that the main personality finds distasteful or irresponsible. However, the main personality may feel helpless to stop the alter personality from acting. These people often feel a loss of control over their lives and their very essence of self. They may also feel detached from their bodies, thoughts and may perceive the environment around them as unreal or hazy.
Most MPD patients also suffer from other mental illnesses such as depression, sleep disorders and psychotic disorders. The average person diagnosed with MPD is in the medical system for 7 years before being diagnosed with MPD; this is largely due to the difficulty of diagnosing the disorder. Symptoms like mood swings, eating disorders, and suicidal tendencies are often present in other disorders, as are sleep disorders, phobias, and substance abuse.
What are the Causes of Multiple Personality Disorder?
As with many disorders, the specific cause of MPD is hotly debated. Some even contest the existence of the disorder and claim that overzealous therapists may actually contribute to over-reporting of the disorder by their inadvertently leading the patient to report alter personalities when in fact there are none.
One overarching similarity often shared by MPD patients is severe childhood abuse or a traumatizing personal loss during childhood. The hypothesis many professionals have is that children dissociate when they are being severely abused or are trying to cope with a loss. This eventually leads to the “splitting off” of aspects of the personality in the form of alters, in order to help the child survive the emotional trauma being inflicted. Most ordinary people “take a break” from reality in the form of daydreams or fantasies, but severely abused children who contract MPD may dissociate as adults because of what they endured as children. Other experts hypothesize that some psychotherapeutic techniques such as hypnosis might accidentally cause patients to recover false memories in an effort to please their therapist. Some patients may simply be striving to meet the expectations of their therapists, rather than experiencing actual dissociation or alters. To date there has been little evidence of the existence of alters in children or teenagers, leading to a degree of skepticism about how and when the illness might arise.
What are Treatment Options for Multiple Personality Disorder?
No medication exists solely for the treatment of dissociative identity disorder, but antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help patients deal with the symptoms of this mental illness. Since so many people with MPD also have other mental illnesses and disorders, doctors may prescribe medications frequently used to treat those other disorders to Multiple Personality patients.
Psychotherapy is a popular treatment method for people with MPD as it allows therapists to attempt to integrate a person’s alters into a more complete self. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients unlearn negative ways of thinking and learn positive methods; psychodynamic therapy helps patients tolerate past traumas and deal with them better in the present. Hypnotherapy may also be used in order to access past repressed memories, although significant caution is warranted with the use of this technique.
Most successful treatments for MPD feature multiple treatment approaches. Medication may help patients deal with depression and anxiety, while psychotherapy may help patients deal with past traumas and current alters. Creative therapy provides a positive outlet for self-expression that may help a person not feel so fractured and detached from life.
Frequently Asked Questions about Multiple Personality Disorder?
1) I have seen people on TV and in movies who have Multiple Personality Disorder and I do not act like they do, so I do not have MPD, right?
Hollywood’s job is to shoot movies and shows that people want to see, and they know that sensationalism sells. Most of the people who have MPD do not constantly change voices and mannerisms day in and day out, and they do not always hear voices or hallucinate. A medical professional will likely do a better job of diagnosis than a Hollywood producer.
2) I have just been diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder; does that mean that my life is over?
Hardly. People with MPD often respond positively to treatment and may live productive lives. There are also different degrees of Multiple Personality Disorder, so not everyone has a severe case. Herschel Walker was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder later in life after a career as one of the greatest football players of all time, so a Multiple Personality Diagnosis is far from a life or a death sentence.
3) I was never sexually abused as a child, so how could I possibly have Multiple Personality Disorder?
While sexual abuse is the leading risk factor for MPD, it is by no means the sole cause. Children can be abused in manners other than sexual assault; they can be physical assaulted, browbeaten emotionally, belittled, or neglected. Losing a parent or a sibling early in life can also lead to frequent dissociation, potentially resulting in Multiple Personality Disorder later in life.
4) I have heard that certain forms of treatment may make Multiple Personality Disorder worse, so I would be better off not seeking treatment, right?
Many cases of MPD have benefitted greatly from competent professional treatment, and failing to obtain treatment could result in lost friends, family, and loved ones as well as suicide. The key to obtaining good treatment for Multiple Personality Disorder is to seek treatment from competent and qualified professionals who are trained in such types of therapy.
Why Bridges to Recovery for Multiple Personality Disorder Treatment?
The professionals at Bridges to Recovery understand that treatment for Multiple Personality is long, involved, and difficult. They will work with the patient to develop a treatment plan that is unique to that individual and that will address only the person’s issues that need to be treated. Bridges to Recovery boasts a 2 to 1 staff to patient ratio, so patients will always receive top-notch care without fear of neglect. The Bridges to Recovery treatment plan centers around treating the whole person, so MPD patients who attend there will not just be given some pills and kept in a room.
Bridges to Recovery’s doctors are professionals who are trained in psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, art therapy, and other helpful areas of expertise that will be helpful with MPD treatment. Patients will have the opportunity to attend therapy sessions, but they will also be able to enjoy music, yoga, art, fitness, and other such classes that provide outlets for creativity and self-expression. Art therapy in particular has shown itself to be helpful for MPD patients, so those with this disorder will benefit from Bridges to Recovery’s classes.
All of Bridges to Recovery’s California locations are private and remote, keeping negative influences away from patients. Some people with MPD also abuse substances; Bridges to Recovery is a good place to go to avoid problematic temptations. The locations themselves are luxurious yet homey, making residents feel that they are living in a vacation home rather than a hospital or institution. The grounds are also beautiful, giving patients places to go for exercise, prayer, or personal meditation.
Recovery from MPD is a long-term process, and Bridges to Recovery understands that concept. Near the end of Bridges to Recovery’s treatment program, the staff and the patient will work out a unique, tailored plan of action for the patient’s continued recovery beyond the walls of Bridges to Recovery. The plan may involve continuing medication, regular psychotherapy sessions, or enrolling in an art class depending on the patient. The work at Bridges to Recovery and the treatment planning for the future following treatment will help provide the patient with a plan to return to their outside lives.